A/N: I can't believe it's been almost a year since I've updated. This has been lying around my room for quite some time, and I didn't realize I hadn't posted it.

Chapter 12: Speechless

Alec said nothing. He didn't even turn his head when the door to his apartment slammed open so loudly, he thought it would fly off the hinges. It wouldn't take more than one guess to know who it was. But Alec was more than ready to get out of there.

"Where do you think you're going?" asked Zack, lumbering in the doorway to Alec's bedroom.

"I hear Vegas is nice this time of year," Alec said nonchalantly, tossing another shirt into his duffel bag.

It took every ounce of self-control for Zack not to choke the other X5 standing in front of him. How dare he be so calm while Max was lying in a hospital bed after being shot? And pregnant. Zack was still getting used to the pregnant part.

"Are you insane? You need to get back there," Zack countered.

Alec picked up the bag and walked toward Zack whose bulky form filled the only exit. He stopped a few feet away from Zack.

"I only make things worse for Max. If you haven't noticed, I'm the cause of this current predicament," Alec replied. "She'll be better with me gone."

Zack crossed his arms in front of his chest. "And you really believe your own b.s.?"

Alec moved closer toward Zack, hoping that he would step out of the way. Zack shifted to take up more room and stand a little straighter.

"Seriously? After all we've been through? All that you and Max have been through, you're going to just walk away?" Zack demanded. "I figured you for a lot of things, but a coward wasn't one of them."

For the second time that day, Alec didn't have a witty comeback for the gravity of his situation.

"Move," he gritted out.

"Make me," growled Zack.

Alec was tense. Every muscle in his body was ready to spring into action. He was itching for a fight, something he knew how to cope with. Max? A baby? He didn't know what he was supposed to do. In a fight, he knew how to kick, jab, punch and parry his way to victory.

From the look in Zack's eyes, it seemed like they were thinking the exact same thing. He wasn't going anywhere unless Alec made him. With that thought in mind, he dropped his bag to the floor and took a few steps back before charging at Zack.

The other X5 was ready for him but Alec had more strength than Zack had anticipated, and the two quickly tumbled to the ground in a flurry of fisticuffs. A quick punch from Zack earned an equal one from Alec as they rolled on the floor trying to get the upper hand on the other. Alec aimed his fist at Zack's face but found himself reeling from pain when he remembered that Max's older brother was part machine. Before he could recover from the surprise and rethink his strategy, Zack managed to get another hit in, sending Alec crashing to the floor on his back.

"We're going back to the hospital," Zack grunted as he pulled himself onto his feet.

Alec struggled to stand, but remained defiant in his stumbling stance. He wasn't ready to give up yet. His opponent was larger and could dish out twice the damage. But Alec didn't care. He needed to get out or die trying.

"I'm not going back there," Alec said darkly, spitting out the blood from his mouth.

Zack took a long look at him. He hadn't seen this side of his fellow X5 before. In all Zack's memories, Alec was a whimsical and sarcastic character no matter the situation. All of Manticore's creatures had a dark side, a breaking point, and Zack was forced to remember that. Both men held their ground, not giving or taking an inch.

"So after everything she's done for you, after knowing you've got the chance to have a family, you're going to walk away?" Zack asked incredulously.

"What the hell is your problem? You've been dying to get rid of me since you got here."

"Yeah, but not like this!" Zack yelled at him. Then a realization dawned on him. "You're in love with Max."

"Bullshit. We're just friends. Or we used to be," Alec said. "I don't do complicated. And you knew I was leaving before this all went to hell. If this kid is born, I have to stay."

"Yeah right," said Zack, shaking his head in disbelief. "If you were just friends, you wouldn't be running scared out of your mind."

Alec snorted. "Your brain must have short circuited when I hit you."

Zack edged closer to him. "Must have been before that for me to have not seen it sooner."

"So what? You think your little speech will make me go sprinting to Max to play house?" Alec snapped. "I can't go back there! I'll make things worse! Bad things happen to people… I care about."

It was Zack's turn to scoff. "News flash, that bad things happen to everyone. Welcome to life. You know how many of my siblings I've lost? Jack died of seizures. Lydecker shot Eva in front of us. God, Tinga… Hell, Max was shot in the heart and died on the table in front of me! But I'm still here. We're both still here! If you really gave a damn about Max, you wouldn't be able to just leave."

Alec recoiled from Zack's assessment of him. How dare he accuse him of not caring about Max? Alec had done everything in his power not to, but somehow that girl had gotten under his skin like no one else. He had said he only stayed in Seattle to make up the money he lost to her. He stayed after that because he'd found a great job working with her along with some easy deals on the side, so why give up a good thing? And Josh. He couldn't leave the big lug after everything. Then he got caught up with their little 'Save the Mutants' cause. Finally, he woke up one morning and realized he was free but didn't want to leave her. He hated himself and her that morning. That was the morning Zack had found them together.

His silence only further incited Zack's rage.

"Maybe Max is better off with you," Zack said. "I thought that keeping everyone separate would keep them safe. But you know what? Ten years they were away from each other and now some of them are dead after years alone, wondering what happened to the others. We don't get that time back, Alec. We don't get them back. Don't make that mistake."

"It's not the same. Do you have any idea what it's like knowing that you destroyed someone's life? Because that's what happens to the people around me. Failing to protect them is one thing, being unable to protect them from yourself is another."

"It is the exact same thing, drama queen. You weren't the one who shot Max. Yes, you were the one who got her um… pregnant… but that both of you being idiots. Don't give yourself so much credit. Sometimes… shit happens."

Alec stared at him. "You escaped from Manticore when you were twelve, spent the rest of your life on the lam, committed suicide, came back from the dead as a cyborg… and all you have to say is 'shit happens'?"

"I didn't come back as the Dalai Lama, smart ass."

"No kidding."

Zack gritted his teeth. "I'm giving you a choice. If you walk out that door, you better stay gone or I'll make sure of it myself."

"What's in this for you?"

"Other than not having to tell Max that I killed you? I'd say that my efforts to keep my family safe by keeping them apart haven't gotten me very far. All I think about these days is the time I wasted. The time they wasted, when we could have been together. That kind of regret eats away at you and doesn't fade away. Trust me."

Alec nodded slowly, absorbing what Zack was saying. They both stood still for a moment, neither sure of the other's next move.

After a few moments had passed, Alec drew in a deep breath. "So why are we standing around here? Let's get back to the hospital."

Zack nodded. "I take it that I don't have to kick your ass all the way back there?"

"Please, I had you right where I wanted you," Alec said as Zack followed him out of the apartment. "If anyone was getting his ass kicked, it was you."

"Yeah and Lydecker cross-dresses on weekends. Oh, and I still owe you an ass-kicking when this is all over – you knocked up my baby sister."

Alec turned back and tried to read the expression on Zack's face. Something told him that Zack might not have been kidding…

A/N 2: I know – high amounts of drama. I'm hoping that I'll be able to tie it up in a few more chapters. Sorry that I dodged what's going on with Max, but she and the others will be back next chapter.

Thanks to all my reviewers! Sorry the updates have been so slow. You guys are the best!